Drapac Pro Cycling got off to a quick start at the Tour de Langkawi on Wednesday when Brenton Jones finished second on the opening stage to Astana's Andrea Guardini. SkyDive Dubai's Andrea Palini was third.
Graeme Brown, Thomas Scully and Jens Mouris set up the lead out for Jones at the end of the the 165km stage that was flat and fast, and which featured highly technical final kilometres.
“It was a fast finish from the top of the last climb at 20k to go,” said Jones, 24, who won the final stage of the Tour of Hainan in October. “There were a few big crashes in the finish but the boys rode solid to get me up there. It was a good start with second today, we look to go one better tomorrow.”
Jones is benefiting in Langkawi from the experience provided by the 2016 lead-out train of Morris, Scully and Brown, and his 2016 season is getting on track to prove he's got the nerves and speed to compete with the top sprinters.
Brown said the stage was easily controlled, but the finish was hectic with a lot of crashes. The Drapac squad were lucky to avoid any of the carnage.
“All the boys were where they needed to be and even the climbers got in the mix during the day to protect Jones,” Brown said. “In the final kilometers, Scully, Brenton and I lost the big Dutchman [Mouris], who managed to get himself to the front on the right and we were pinned on the left.
“Scully took us to 1k to go and I jumped on Dimension Data until 600 to go, went full as the last corner was a tight left at 300m to go,” Brown said. “We went in super hot and sprinted out. Only Guardini managed to pass Brenton and he passed another guy in the final meters. All in all, a good team effort and a solid result to start to week.”
Team director Tom Southam said Wednesday's stage was the first time Drapac has raced with both Scully and Mouris in the lead-out train, and the duo added a lot of firepower.
“We knew the last corner was crucial, and Brownie did an excellent job to get into the last corner first and give Brenton a great run to the line,” Southam said. “Brenton did really well, committed into the corner but couldn't get the better of Guardini this time.
“The sprints can be pretty messy here, and a number of the finals are pretty technical,” Southam said. “But today we executed well, and if we can continue to work and progress from here we will be in the hunt over the following stages.”
Thursday's second stage at the 2.HC Tour de Langkawi will be another flat route from Sungai Petani to Pulau Pinang, with a steep pitch around 130km and a descent into what looks to be another chance for the sprinters.
Drapac Pro Cycling's Le Tour de Langkawi roster: Graeme Brown, Brenton Jones, Gavin Mannion, Jens Mouris, Lachlan Norris, Thomas Scully